Archive for March, 2010


Friday, March 26th, 2010

Dear Friends,

One of the most special activities in which I participate all year is a seder for the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes which is an organization that serves the developmentally disabled. Last night I led the seder and we had a meaningful discussion about the symbol of the salt water which was particularly salty this year.

We talked about the tears that our ancestors shed over the bitterness of slavery. Then we talked about the ongoing sadness that so many in our world face each day. Our discussion was a stark reminder that we live in a world that is in need of tikkun(healing) and that each one of us needs to think of one cause that is important for us so that we can alleviate a small piece of the suffering in our world.

What is always so inspirational to me is that these folks who have plenty to be upset about, given that they are disabled, are always so eager to want to make things better for others. I couldn’t help but think of all the things that make me feel that there is salt water and sadness in my life, and yet in reality I have nothing to personally shed tears over.

I hope that as we gather for our seders, we will think about how blessed most of us are and that perhaps we can find special ways in which we can share our blessings with others.

Last Shabbat I spoke at a BBYO gathering where the theme was “If Not Now, When?” We talked about the importance of finding ways at each stage of our lives to try to improve our world in ways that only our own uniqueness can facilitate.

May Elijah’s presence inspire us all to find ways in which to lessen the salt water in our world. Remember the Yiddish proverb that says if you believe that the person sitting next to you at the Passover seder is the messiah and is only waiting for you to do a simple act of kindness or say a kind word….Then if it turns out that the person is not really the Messiah, it won’t really matter especially if each of us continues to act kindly and speak words of blessing.

May each of you enjoy a liberating and peaceful Passover with people with whom you are close. Please join us at the seders either the first or second night at GMU and share the blessings of our friendship,

Hag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bruce Aft

This week we begin the reading of the book of Leviticus

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

This week we begin the reading of the book of Leviticus. We know that the Book of Leviticus contains in depth discussion of rules and regulations related to the role of the cohanim or priests during Biblical times and details related to various sacrifices that were performed back in the days of the Bible. Although all Jews are responsible for the commandments as outlined in the Torah, there were special expectations for priests.

However….the first word of the portion, Vayikra, contains a small aleph which has been explained in many ways, including a grammatical tool to separate the first and second words of the Torah. I choose to believe that the small aleph is there to remind us that although the portion deals primarily with cohanim(priests), each one of us is important and by the small actions we perform we make a big difference.

The Book of Leviticus also deals with human relationships and contains the Holiness Code which defines holy ways in which we are expected to live. There are rules and regulations which define our most intimate behavior since everything we do has the potential to bring holiness into our world.

On Wednesday, March 24, we will be discussion Judaism and Sexuality from 6pm -7:30pm and will be serving dinner. I must warn you…the Biblical text makes strong statements which define how we are supposed to behave in our intimate behavior and this session will be very thought provoking.

I look forward to seeing you at the Shabbat Dinner on Friday night and at our Torah text discussion on Shabbat morning where we will talk about the ways in which we can make a difference in the world through our small actions.

Rabbi Bruce Aft

V’yakhel, Pekudei

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This week we complete the reading of the book of Exodus and it is traditional when we finish a book of the Torah to say, Hazak Hazak, V’nithazek which means may we be strong and may we strengthen each other.

The end of the book of Exodus puts the final touches on the portable Tabernacle which our ancestors built in the desert. Our ancestors took great care in creating what was going to become holy space.

What are the holy spaces in our lives? Where are our safe zones? Where do we go when we need to communicate with G-d and try to find ourselves.

Recently, one of our children celebrated a big birthday and received a present of an airplane ticket to wherever they wanted to go…Our child chose to go to Israel because of a desire to go to a place where (s)he could “get his/her life together” and think about where (s)he is in his/her life.

I hope you have a place that you go when you want to take a break, when you want to experience a sacred moment, when you want to improve your mental health, and/or when you just want to be alone and think about the meaning of your life.

May we find strength in our holy places and may we help others to find holiness in their lives and strengthen each other in our efforts to create sacred spaces in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom and enjoy your vacation!!!

Rabbi Bruce

Ki Tissa Torah Portion

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

So, how patient are you???? This week we read about the Golden Calf and reflect upon why our ancestors would have built one. Moses told the people that he was going to return from his conversation with G-d on Mt. Sinai in 40 days. When he didn’t return , the people were frightened. They decided that they should build an idol to symbolize this G-d they had never seen.

We know the story…Moses returns from Sinai and sees the people dancing around the idol. Now there is a commentary that suggests that Moses came back on the 41st day according to the people’s count, but on what he thought was the 40th day. Look at the significance of a little error in communication…

How many of us think we have made something clear to someone only to end up with an argument due to a miscommunication. We should all learn to be careful in the ways in which we communicate to others. And…for those of us who are younger and having challenges communicating with our parents, please think about how sometimes people hear things differently that we mean them, especially based upon the uniqueness of their personal experiences….Be patient and continue to touch base if there is any doubt as to what you think he or she said or what you think he or she meant by what he or she said…

Good luck in mastering the art of communication. It is not easy….

Rabbi Bruce Aft
Hillel Rabbinic Educator